It is not every column that solves all of America’s problems, much less says how in a single piece of popular legislation, but the back-story comes first. As the headline already revealed, it shows how to “restrict the franchise”—a lawyerly, two-thousand bucks an hour phrase for limiting who can vote. Believe me, everyone will love it; even the disenfranchised.
We consider whether we need to stop some people from voting and why; look at where previous attempts failed; finally how we might achieve it and still keep everyone tickled pink.
The issue was raised in a recent Breitbart column entitled, with no fiddle-faddle whatsoever, “Why Are So Many Utterly Stupid People Allowed to Vote? It’s Madness!” Its Greek author wrote about Britain’s forthcoming vote on membership in the European Community, but his point may apply, or not. Defending the direct democracy of his ancient forefathers (his foremothers could not vote) he writes, “Sure, the franchise was restricted to a tiny slice of the population, but they were the richest, best educated and most blue-blooded anyway. Some people are born to rule.” Are they? Plato agreed but parlous few concur with him nowadays.
Dame Science thinks otherwise. Her theory of Natural Selection shows how species compete and brush others aside, sometimes even gently. This implies folly in letting all groups vote forever. But while we like to watch Natural Selection on the Wildlife Channel we hesitate to try it at home. I am a diabetic and would have popped my clogs years ago were not I taking medicine and thwarting Survival of the Fittest. Meanwhile we pay the permanently confused to live comfortably and reproduce at will, because the alternatives scarcely bear thinking about. The same goes for curtailing immigration legal and illegal. So we pat the old girl on the head, tell Dame Science that she did a great job with Galapagos Island tortoises, but otherwise pipe down and have a nice cup of tea—maybe rightly so if my meds are at stake.
What does God think? Dame Science, less wise than her elder sister, Mother Nature, tried to figure out God, got stumped and so, rather petulantly if you ask me, says that He does not exist. This resembles me insisting that Domino’s Pizza does not exist if nobody answers the phone. God may be taking pepperoni out of the freezer.
God designed self-limiting systems. Yeast turns sugar into alcohol, but eventually the alcohol kills the yeast and fermentation stops. This is why wine may be turned into the Blood of Christ but not into Everclear; where widespread drunken brawling would give an unwelcome liturgical meaning to the term “Critical Mass.”
Self-limiting systems include eutrophic ponds, eventually filled solid with the corpses of algae that over-proliferated there as water grew warmer and the pond shallower. They include suns and empires that expand until they collapse in on themselves. Near the end the former become Red Dwarves, and the latter too if you look at the West’s leaders.
Does Democracy have its own self-imposed limitations? It always has, apart from its recent spread and self-aggrandising predictions. From Greek Democracy half a millennium before Christ, until its glorious rebirth under Syriza leftists and Neo-Nazis, staggered a fairly long interregnum of brutal generals, Turkish administrators and people whose name started with “King.” Adriatic city-states, such as Venice and Florence, were famous democracies before they traded it in to become Italians; a democracy only in the sense that pizza is food. Democracies may have a natural life cycle that includes death just like everything else; which may be as God designed.
Like many modern democratic republics, now possibly nearing the end of the same synchronised life cycle, America started by limiting voting to white males who owned property. States set their own rules, and only New Jersey allowed white, property-owning women to vote; a factor contributing to Westward Expansion. Non-white foreigners could mostly vote too, if they owned property; whereas now a foreign chap rich enough to afford a high-rise and a Green Card can buy enough legislators that voting becomes irrelevant. Only four states let freed slaves vote, if they owned property of course, but after every slave was freed in 1863 there was not room for them all in only four states. Thus the 15th Amendment, in 1870, declared that voting rights could no longer be denied due to “race, color (colour) or previous condition of servitude.” Some warned that letting “them” vote, nationwide, would one day elect a black President but they were alarmists. In 1920 women were allowed to vote, and that led to the Hillary campaign.
Using Public Choice Theory, in each case there were strong motivations for disenfranchised people to agitate and fewer for others to oppose them; socially, morally perhaps, and because they had other things to do. Similarly, many refrained from joining Civil Rights marches in the 1960s, not because they had anything against black people, but because they had jobs. This included plenty of black people too, of course.
Early on, Founder Alexander Hamilton warned of extending the franchise, especially if the propertyless unwashed became a majority and chose to loot the remainder. Recent GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney made the same observation and got the same reaction (apart from being shot by Aaron Burr, who was already dead). Some make the same point today, if there are no cameras and microphones present.
Yet some argue rather convincingly, that huge, impersonal markets make more accurate predictions than any individual or small group. This is the oft-repeated wisdom of crowds, who for the most part look at broad reactions in the marketplace rather than at more specific things. The logical fallacy argumentum ad populum (appeal to people) says, like the perfume ad, “fifty million Frenchmen can’t be wrong,” to which a philosopher might reply “fifty billion flies eat garbage.”
A 1998 survey showed that “more American teenagers can name three of the Three Stooges than can name the three branches of government (59% to 41%), know the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air than know the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (94.7% to 2.2%), know which city has the zip code “90210” than the city in which the US Constitution was written…” But perhaps all is still well. Maybe teenagers are getting smarter. Maybe they will vote for their betters. Maybe they will be too stoned to go to the polls. Maybe crowds are really smart if they are devoid of American teens.
Brushing aside the bickering scholars and piles of argumentation, one seeks like Alexander to cut the Gordian Knot and be done with it. So all we need do is watch YouTube. There we see Humanity in its State of Nature and its heartfelt ideal; and they are mostly morons. The vast majority is as opinionated as uninformed as voluble as just plain stupid. Granted these are self-selecting idiots; for those who are stupid, but whom suspect as much or are cowed by their spouses, shut up and post no videos of themselves—but they may well be no wiser. After all they married the self-broadcasting nose-pickers.
Apart from the occasional scholar or concert musician whose talk is posted by an institution, the YouTube self-broadcasters have a direct and proportional correlation between being stupid and inarticulate on one hand, and a desire to inflict it on others. The latter, their audiences, come voluntarily and in droves; and YouTube helpfully displays the viewing figures beside each video screen. Thus ten million watched a phony dub of Hillary Clinton ostensibly breaking wind during a debate, while one per cent of that watched Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman’s most popular clip. That defines it all—celebrity, cheap politics and bathroom humour trump brilliance brilliantly conveyed. YouTube demonstrates what democracy is, where it leads, where America is today and where most wish it to go.
The universal franchise, whereby every adult can vote who wishes to, is a ticket to the asylum. It is, to borrow a phrase from PJ O’Rourke, “like giving your dog a credit card.” So how can we stop it before it is too late?
Unfortunately it may already be too late. Not only do our morons vote, in numbers roughly equalling the rest, but mob rule expands daily; as every outraged Tweet or text from unidentified people who may be hydrocephalic is quoted as a legitimate news source, ranking alongside of the dean of Washington’s National Cathedral, a well-informed scholar or even a professional football player who is at least a known entity. So if we wish to cut the idiots out of democracy we need their approval. That can be done. One fact about idiots is they are not very bright.
My proposed Omnibus Reform Act of 2016 starts by pandering to the crowd; putting minority shoe-shine girls on the banknotes, ensuring double pay for half work, making trade union membership compulsory even for clergy, a job-making and wealth-creating new war every month mandated by statute, and subsidising at least ten free “goes” at plastic surgery not including weekly gender swaps (if ObamaCare does not offer it already). At least twenty more goo-goo “hot button” issues must be included so feel free to add your favourites. Once we disenfranchise half of the electorate we vote it all out again.
The Act’s page 3,478 or 3,479 proposes a teeny constitutional amendment restricting the franchise (a strategy taken from the ObamaCare playbook). When it gets noticed, as it will, our prepared multi-media campaign begins. Franchise, we declare, means the Wal-Marts and Sam’s Clubs abusing their employees; MacDonalds and KFC poisoning our children; franchised car dealerships whose suppliers betray American factory workers; franchised gas station chains depleting non-renewable energy for oil company fat-cats, and so forth. As Lefties did after recent race riots, we hire throngs of the unwashed to march for the cameras and chant slogans. Hastily-assembled consumer groups demand that big and small business sign petitions calling for an end to the franchise threat or are added to the blacklist. Scripted and fully-paid politicians and members of the commentariat take the moderate position; that this franchise mess should be restricted cautiously rather than abolished in haste. David Brooks will shout the loudest for “moderate” restriction, and we need not pay the fool a penny.
Emulating Wag the Dog (America’s best-ever political satire film), we need an unsung hero; an ordinary, “oh shucks” American who gave her—yes her—life for the struggle against unrestricted franchise. This half-black-half-Hispanic-half-Inuit (we are still working out details) watched her illegitimate children choke on the plastic toys in their Happy Meals, dash into the street and be run over by a Japanese-made cigarette delivery van running on Chinese gas (China consumes rather than produces oil, but who pays attention?) driven by an illegal alien who swam here from Iran. The brave, unionised fire-fighters who tried to rescue the kids were stopped by a franchised law-firm, hired by multi-nationals whose other franchises bought and closed the local hospital, and then had their media franchises hush up the “fact” that the youngest child was headed there for her sex-change operation, accompanied by her mother who was originally her father, and two gay siblings under the age of six. Now the bereaved minority ex-dad-ex-mom weeps into the cameras, begging America for justice—and revenge against these evil franchises.
Success is a certainty, and as American as corndogs, Japanese internment or KKK lynch mobs. Relatively few elites will need to know our secret because so many opportunists will flock to the cause. The President will invite the ex-dad-ex-mom for hugs in the Oval Office, when she is not too busy signing television contracts and selling film rights. The corporate franchises themselves will donate fortunes to our campaign in hope that the mob would kill them last. The Heritage Foundation will propose eliminating half of them as a pessimistic sop to the inevitable.
Finally, as both Houses vote the new amendment into the Constitution, someone will use a Ouija board to contact Tom Brokaw, who will link this “historic moment” to “The Greatest Generation” on the beach at Iwo Jima, as millions of Americans celebrate madly; either overdoing the gin-and-tonics or torching parked cars depending on the neighbourhood. The next morning, as the National Guard patrols the streets, a taped announcement explains what really just happened.
Yes it will prove difficult at first. But then some celebrity chanteuse will up the ante and reveal an intimate body part that is neither bosom nor backside, and everyone will need to talk about it. A sports team expected to lose will defeat one expected to win, and everyone will need to talk about that too. Then Sam’s Club will offer a fifteen per cent discount for buying a second three-hundred pound tub of frozen tacos made in Korea by Philippine slave labour, and crowds will battle to squeeze through the doors. In other words, nature will take her course.
Elections, already a spectator sport for half of Americans, will become the same for another twenty-five per cent; providing yet another pleasant diversion competing with game shows, soap operas, jello-wrestling and footage from wherever America invades that month. The country, begun as the triumph of the Age of Reason, will become the aristocracy that her Founders loathed, which she has halfway become already by simple Materialism and inertia. Then, as now and as always, various elites will scheme and connive for power. With heroic effort they will dependably play musical chairs or wait for the next available seat. Then as ever, nothing much will happen of any consequence; as the Bush family squats in the middle, insisting on their hereditary “right” to lead.
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